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On Sunday, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Bob Stallman announced that his group would be filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday in U.S. District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The head of the six million member organization told his members that the EPA’s “over-regulation endangers our industry.” “Our message to the new Congress is clear: It is time to stop the EPA,” said Stallman. “But we don’t intend to leave this to Congress alone. We are prepared to carry this battle to the courts.”
What Stallman is attempting to block is the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” announced by EPA on December 29. Based on the EPA’s determination to regulate greenhouse gases, which political advocates insist are one of the primary causes of global warming, the “diet” is an attempt to impose tighter controls on wastewater runoff from cities and agricultural concerns. Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia will be required to produce a 25% reduction in nitrogen, a 24% reduction in phosphorus and a 20% reduction in sediment runoff by 2025. Much of that reduction would be achieved by limiting farm fertilizer runoff and placing controls on large-scale animal feeding operations. The EPA announced that “mandatory controls on agriculture” could be enacted as early as 2013 in in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New York state if reductions in pollution “fall behind schedule.”
According to Stallman, “the diet threatens to starve agriculture out of the entire 64,000 square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed,” and that government regulators “are ready to downsize American agriculture, mothball our productivity and out-source our farms,” adding that EPA’s “over-regulation endangers our industry.” Cattlemen and farmers contend that complying with these and other new regulations will cost millions of dollars.
Stallman insists that state governments should be in charge of farming regulations, not the EPA. The Obama administration supports EPA control, claiming there has been a lack of progress by state governments to protect the waterway. According to the Baltimore Sun, “(U)rban and farm runoff, air pollution and sewage overflows have created areas known as ‘dead zones,’ places where oxygen is sucked from the water by algae blooms that prevent sunlight from reaching underwater marine life. Pollution and disease nearly killed off the bay oyster. The blue crab population has just started to rebound after tighter restrictions on their harvest.”
Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Charles H. Bronson, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 2000 to 2010, both in attendance at the meeting, believe the EPA is engaging in a power grab that threatens the future of production agriculture in the U.S, and warned that the “unchecked” agency will impose enormous costs on far more than the agricultural community, with consumers and taxpayers bearing the burden of those costs as well. Shaw characterized the EPA as “very creative, making their own rules,” noting that more stringent air pollution regulations in Texas will be placed on “most internal combustion engines used on farms and ranches,” even those as small as 20 horsepower machines. He added that the new rules demonstrate that the EPA has an “ominous goal” of forcing governments and businesses across the nation to adopt alternative energy sources “regardless of the cost,” noting that agricultural producers will be faced with price spikes in fuel, fertilizer and transportation. “It is going to raise the cost of everything,” he predicted.
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